The European Championships have just kicked off, and here is a look at the group that has rightly hogged the most attention since the draw was originally made- Group F. Featuring three continental heavyweights and a surprise package in Hungary, it’s easily the toughest group on paper in the 24-team competition.
Group F (France, Germany, Portugal and Hungary)
The group is also a straight shootout between Nike and Adidas, both of whom will outfit two teams each. Germany and Hungary will have the famed three stripes while France and Portugal will sport the swoosh.
Between 1960 and 2015, Hungary only had two European Championship appearances to their name. They have however managed to qualify for the last two editions of the tournament in succession, and did so this time by beating Iceland (Euro 2016 quarterfinalists and 2018 World Cup participants) in their playoff final. It was a pretty dramatic triumph- Iceland lead 1-0 till the last two minutes of the game before goals from Loic Nego and Dominik Szoboszlai sent the Hungarians through in stunning fashion.
Hungary finished 13th (out of 16) in the last Euros and will be hoping to bag a scalp or two in the Group of Death. They also have the advantage of playing their first two games on home soil at the Puskas Arena in Budapest.
European runners up in 2016 and World Cup winners in 2018- can Didier Deschamps again guide Les Bleus to glory? They have their work cut out in this group and gaffer Deschamps, somewhat interestingly, has chosen to recall Karim Benzema to the national squad after a gap of six long years. The forward almost single handedly carried Real Madrid in the just concluded season, and Deschamps will be hoping that he can transfer that form onto the international arena.
Portugal are the defending European champions and are also the reigning Nations League winners. Going by the odds from the PBC website, they’re however outsiders for the title here- both France and Germany from their own group have shorter odds, but that will suit Fernando Santos and his side just perfectly. Portugal have plenty of talent in their ranks, and most importantly, they have Cristiano Ronaldo, who seems to be ageing like fine wine and is coming off a spectacular domestic season with Juventus.
This will be Joachim Low’s swansong with the national side. Many fans and pundits think that Low has stayed too long with Die Mannschaft- their performances in the 2018 World Cup and the Nations League that followed afterwards were poor. Like Deschamps with Benzema, Low has recalled key players in the form of Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels.
Germany also have home advantage- all three of their ties will be at the Allianz Arena in Munich, and that probably explains why Low’s side are strong favourites to get out of the Group of Death despite having both the defending European and World champions for company.